We figured the Memphis Grizzlies would have to put their best foot forward tonight when the San Antonio Spurs came to town. What we probably didn't anticipate was the Grizzlies putting together such a complete start-to-finish performance that the fourth quarter basically provided everyone involved the chance to take a step back and admire their handy work.
109-93. The Grizzlies took a game necessary for many reasons, from the psychological to the simple win-loss column, and made it look like it wasn't that a big deal at all.
Jump it for more...
The self-assurance exuded throughout this game by the Grizzlies was the biggest thing I took away from it. Memphis was just better than San Antonio on this night, controlling the rhythm of the game, always seemingly leading by 5 to 11 points -- there were no real runs put together by the Spurs because they could never consistently slow the Grizzlies' varying attacks. They played the game they wanted to play; constantly forcing turnovers, generating run-outs, and, of course, getting into the paint and passing by or through whichever Spur attempted to impede the progress.
The other big thing I took away, at the risk of taking this from the macros of Sports Talk, were the contributions from the team as a whole. Everyone just seemed so ready, so excited, to lend a hand in this one -- every rebound corralled couldn't be put back up quick enough (sometimes a little too quick, but you'll take that tonight), couldn't be outletted down the court fast enough. The open man routinely found the right spots on the floor and the extra pass didn't seem to miss its end of the connection too often.
O.J. Mayo came in and sparked like the Grizz needed him to, Darrell Arthur attacked and attacked (his mini-run in the third effectively killed any remaining Spurs' spirit), Mike Conley (7-11 shooting, 18 points, 9 assists to 2 turnovers and 3 steals) severely outplayed George Hill, which is, well, what needed to happen.
Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, to their credit, for awhile looked as though they'd keep the Spurs afloat for as long as it took their supporting cast to pick it up. They never did; in a particularly well-distributed box score, every active player on San Antonio played and scored, but only one (Gary Neal, 14 points) scored in double figures. This is, perhaps, the downside to parity.
This isn't even to mention Tony Allen (8-9 shooting, 20 points), who, boy, played exactly the way Tony Allen was meant to play. Running the floor, finishing fast breaks, and being an overall disturbance to everyone on the defensive side of the court. Zach Randolph was always there when needed, making the baskets that kept the Spurs at an arm's length. I could go on, but I think it's pretty well summed up in that I didn't even mention everyone's positive contributions in this game.
The Grizzlies played without any doubts as to who they are and what they can do on a basketball court tonight. It worked out pretty well, and really wasn't all that stressful. In terms of feeling like a regular season statement win -- which it should feel like for Grizzlies fans -- it was an ideal outcome, if not rather unexpected.
The same did not seem to apply to the Grizzlies themselves, though, and that's the important part.